Friday, March 28, 2014

Autistic exercise: options for the distracted teen

#1 and #2 are both on the spectrum. They have some things in common - rigidity, solipsism, love for family — but they’re pretty different people. This is particularly true when it comes to exercise, the balm for all things from mood to brain development to physical health.

#1 is a jock. Hockey, baseball, bicycling, mountain bicycling …. adaptive sports or mainstream sports — he likes motion and he’s pretty skilled. #2 is different, he likes screens, books and Lego. #2 is also dangerously distractible; while #1 is quite good on a road bike #2 terrifies me and passing drivers alike. Neither boy likes hot weather and bugs. The good news is that #2 generally willing to exercise with me, and I love to exercise.

So now I have to come up with an exercise program for #2 that’s safe, effective and enjoyable. I’ll start with a short list of activities that I think of as suited to screen-oriented teens with high functioning autism …

  • Minnesota Special Hockey: Be great if we had more ice time, but this works well during the season.
  • Running: If you know many runners you can tell quite a few are on the spectrum.  Indoor treadmill with a screen can work.
  • Climbing (indoors): Outdoor climbing is dangerous for the distractible, but indoor is fairly safe. Great exercise and, again, appeals to many on the spectrum.
  • Swimming: a bit boring, and teaching #2 to swim took great patience and some money, but safe and works all year round
  • Inline skating: again, there are quite a few on the spectrum. A rhythmic swinging type of activity.
  • Weight training: solitary, methodical, quiet, can listen to music or podcasts…
  • Exercise bike/ elliptical / treadmill: Especially if paired with a screen. (You get unlimited screen as long as you stay above 5 miles an hour…)
  • Trampoline: Risky, but bouncing is good
  • Mountain biking: #2 on the road is scary, but he’s great on even reasonably technical trails
  • Martial arts: We tried this years ago and it failed, but he’s older now. A possibility, though group interaction is challenging.
  • XC Skiing: he is an excellent XC skier — but the season is sadly short. (This year was pretty good though.)

I think we can work with this. We live in Minnesota so we need a range of indoor and outdoor activities to cover the entire year.

Some other sources of ideas: